How Jews See Themselves, 2008
March 7, 2009
Any group that expects to survive into the long term future should be aware of current trends and how they will influence the group. Jews take such planning quite seriously. The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute has assumed the role of long term planning for the Jewish people, not only in Israel but also the Diaspora. The JPPPI is an independent think tank that reports to the Israeli government and has close ties with other Jewish organizations. Its mission is “to promote the thriving of the Jewish people via professional strategic thinking and planning on issues of primary concern to world Jewry. JPPPI's work is based on deep commitment to the future of the Jewish people with Israel as its core state.”
of the Board of Directors of JPPPI from 2002 until early 2009 was Dennis Ross —
the same Dennis Ross who has played a major role in US policy in the Middle East
in the Bush I and Clinton administrations and was director of the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy — a hard-line pro-Israel lobbying group. Ross gave up
his position with the JPPPI after he was named as the Obama administration’s
top envoy to the Middle East, a position where
he will be able to influence policy on Iran and other issues deemed vital to
Israel. (Ross remains a "Consultant" at WINEP.)
(Ross remains a "Consultant" at WINEP.)
noteworthy that no one complains when Ross is appointed to such an important US
foreign policy position despite his close ties to Israel and the Israel Lobby;
but there is major hysteria when people point out that Charles
Freeman (Obama's nominee for the head of the National Intelligence Council) has
an association with a group funded by Saudi Arabia.
The JPPPI’s report Facing Tomorrow 2008 is a sort of State of the Union document for Judaism — a description of the state of Judaism and what challenges are on the horizon. In scope and intention, it reminds one of the National Policy Institute's report "The State of White America."
Not surprisingly, there is great concern
about Iran as an "existential threat" — presumably a major area of interest for
the former chairman of JPPPI’s Board of Directors in his new position in the US
The Jewish people must, as the highest
priority, develop an appropriate response to the Iranian nuclear threat to
Israel and to global stability as a whole. While there is no ambiguity about the
need to do so in Israel, it is necessary to mobilize Jewish opinion around the
world as well. The American Jewish community cannot be intimidated either by a
post Iraq syndrome in the United States, or by the false and pernicious
allegations of Professors Walt and Mearsheimer, or former President
Jews around the world are encouraged to mobilize to combat the threat to Israel represented by Iran. The assumption is that Jews have common interests as Jews no matter what country they happen to live in. One is reminded of other eras when Jews have put up a unified front against a particular country because of specific Jewish interests. For example, the organized Jewish community opposed Russia from 1881 to 1917 — a position that led to charges of disloyalty in several countries.
One might think that such a view would leave Jews in the Diaspora open to the charge of disloyalty, but the problem is easily finessed: Jews in the Diaspora are told to frame Israel's concerns about Iran as a global threat, not simply as a threat to Israel.
The report advocates putting pressure on
China, Russia, and moderate Arab states in order to develop the widest possible
coalition: “For instance, currently, the US negotiates with China, bilaterally
and multilaterally on both currency issues and on Iran, without linking the two
issues. Perhaps they need to be linked.” The message is that Jews in the US
should pressure the US government to use any leverage it has with China to
develop a coalition against Iran.
The report is quite clear that the influential writings of former President Carter and professors Mearsheimer and Walt are major obstacles. As I have noted before, these critics of Israel are important because they are associated with elite institutions, and their critique is sober, factually based, and constitutes a moral indictment of Israel. We can expect more attacks on these figures in the future.
Relatedly, the report recommends that Diaspora Jewry do its utmost to undermine the moral critique of Israel. Jews must combat portrayals of Israel as a state that is “colonialist, violates human rights, and engaged in unacceptable behavior that could be described as Apartheid and even Nazism.” Diaspora Jews should also combat charges of dual loyalty. Amazingly, despite the assumption of common Jewish interests no matter what country they live in, without any sense of irony the report notes that Dennis Ross — Exhibit A on the dual loyalty issue — will soon be publishing a book on these issues.
And Ross isn't the only high level American diplomat involved in this report for an Israeli think tank: Stuart Eizenstat is the author of a major section on "Mega-Trends in the Next Five Years which will Impact on World Jewry and Israel."
The situation is exactly the same as the involvement of prominent American neocons (Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David and Meyrav Wurmser) in the notorious "A Clean Break" report for an Israeli think tank. This report, which advocated regime change in the Middle East by many of the architects of the American invasion of Iraq, was also presented to the Israeli government.
There is deep concern about Jewish identification, marriage, and fertility. Jews have the lowest birth rate in the world (1.5–1.7). In the Diaspora, “there is a slow, steady, seemingly inexorable decline in an already diminished population.” In Israel, the Jewish population is increasing but the Arab Israelis and Palestinians are increasing faster. “Between the Mediterranean and the Jordan Sea, there may be a majority of Palestinians by mid-century. Time is not on Israel’s side.” Nevertheless it is important to “Ensure that the borders of the State of Israel guarantee a clear Jewish majority.”
The solution is to encourage fertility
not only by aiding and promoting Jewish births, but by funding programs that
strengthen Jewish identification:
Massive investment should be undertaken to improve knowledge and transmission of Jewish identity through expanding existing and new networks of Jewish schools, and the best forms of informal education such as Birthright, camps, youth movements, adolescent education and adult education.
All of these policies would be viewed as
unvarnished racism if adopted by Europeans or the European Diaspora.
The report on geopolitical trends by
Stuart Eizenstat is quite blunt, noting the decline of the West and the
emergence of a multipolar world with the rise of China and India. Israel must
ready itself for a world no longer dominated by the US, but Eizenstat projects
that the US will be primus inter pares for at least
A similar JPPPI publication is its
This report makes many of these same points as Facing Tomorrow 2008 but also
analyzes the position of Jews in the US. It is quite frank on Jewish power and
the status of American Jews. Jews are
important political players in the US. Despite their relatively small numbers,
Jews are important in part because of “the economic resources they bring to bear
on the candidates of their choices … [and] their prominence in American culture
and society.” Well said.
Moreover, the Report notes that
Moreover, the Report notes that
while Jews tend to be
wealthier than most Americans, they identify their long-term interests with
liberal policies, and are regularly moved by the perception that the Democrats
are the standard bearer of a number of traditionally Jewish ethical concerns.
(This latter contention is of course profoundly contested
by Jewish Republicans, among whom are to be counted a large number of leading
Jewish thinkers and intellectuals.)
The idea that Jewish support for liberal
causes stems from ethical concerns is profoundly problematic from other
perspectives as well. The ethical hypothesis is ludicrous given that American
Jews also support a racialist, apartheid, expansionist Israel. (See here for a
discussion of Jewish ethics as fundamentally about what is “good for the Jews.”)
Indeed, the Report notes that because both Democrats and Republicans are
committed to Israel, Jewish voting is more determined by other factors. In other
words, since there is no disagreement in American politics regarding
unconditional support for Israel, Jews are free to vote their other ethnic
interests — in particular the disestablishment of white
My view is that the Jewish commitment to liberal politics and the Democratic Party stems from their fear of and animosity toward an America dominated by white Christians. As Elliott Abrams has stated, the American Jewish community “clings to what is at bottom a dark vision of America, as a land permeated with anti-Semitism and always on the verge of anti-Semitic outbursts” (p. 86).
It may indeed be rational for Jews to
seek a rapprochement with white America, given that non-white minorities,
especially Muslims, are unlikely to share the Jewish commitment to Israel. But
the main stumbling block remains a
psychological one: Can activist Jews overcome their gut feelings of hostility
toward the West?
Indeed, although not mentioned in the Report, the summary presented to the Israeli cabinet recommended “Enhanced ties between Jewish communities and the Hispanic and Afro-American communities in the US.” Implicitly, the idea is that just as Jews must prepare for the emergence of China and India as world powers, Jews must be prepared for the decline of white America.
Of course, it is no secret that the
organized Jewish community has spearheaded the mass
immigration of non-whites and that they have have forged close ties with
blacks, Latinos, and other minority groups in the US. As I noted elsewhere:
In recent years Jewish organizations have made alliances with other non-white ethnic activist organizations. For example, groups such as the AJCommittee and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington have formed coalitions with organizations such as the National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). A prominent aspect of this effort is the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, co-founded by Rabbi Marc Schneier, President of the North American Boards of Rabbis. The Foundation is closely tied to the World Jewish Congress which cosponsors the Foundation’s Washington, DC office and several of its programs. Typical of the Foundation’s efforts was a meeting in August, 2003 of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Jewish Congressional Delegation, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; the meeting was co-sponsored by the World Jewish Congress. The Foundation’s many programs include organizing the Congressional Jewish/Black Caucus, the Corporate Diversity Award, given to “a major Fortune 500 company committed to building a diverse work force,” the Annual Latino/Jewish Congressional Awards Ceremony, the Annual Black/Jewish Congressional Awards Ceremony, and the Annual Interethnic Congressional Leadership Forum. The latter project organizes an annual meeting of the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the World Jewish Congress, and the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium.
Quite clearly the various non-European ethnic groups are developing close ties and Jewish organizations are taking the lead in this effort.
Finally, it should be noted that there is no self-criticism in these reports — no angst about the ethics of Israel's horrific actions in Gaza or the erection of the racialist, apartheid state of Israel. Nor is there any self-examination of the power of Jews in American politics, particularly the issue of disloyalty as it pertains to the Israel Lobby.
The portrait of Judaism is therefore part and parcel of creating a positive Jewish self-image. This one-dimensional "Jews-have-no-warts" image is a useful fiction for a group with such a large agenda in conflict with the interests of so many other peoples — from white Americans and other European-descended peoples to Iran and the Arab world.
It is an image that is aggressively enforced by Jewish activist organizations such as the ADL. A large part of Jewish power is the ability to create and enforce a positive image of Jews that is quite independent of the reality of aggressive Jewish pursuit of group interests.
The rest of us need not see the Jewish community in quite such a one-dimensional manner.
MacDonald is a professor of psychology at
California State University–Long Beach.